Western Bulldogs 2.4 7.7 10.8 12.10.82
Carlton 3.2 4.4 6.6 9.8.62
Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli 2, McLean 2, Dale 2, Hunter, Stringer, Honeychurch, Picken, Wallis, Johannisen
Carlton: Wright 3, C. Curnow 2, Casboult, Boekhorst, Gibbs, Graham
Alex Docherty's Best
Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Macrae, Dale, McLean, Dahlhaus, Johannisen, Young
Carlton: Gibbs, Docherty, Murphy, Wright, Kreuzer, Kerridge, Simpson
The Western Bulldogs have kept their slim chances of playing Finals alive for another week, defeating Carlton by 20 points in an ugly scrap on what was a chilly Sunday afternoon at the MCG, handing the Blues a fourth-straight loss.
It didn't need to be a pretty win or a commanding victory. The Dogs had only won one match from their past five games and another loss to the 16th-placed Blues would've pulled the plug on what has been a disappointing season for the reigning premiers.
The Western Bulldogs were caught napping at the start of the game, and in turn, allowed Carlton to get the fast start. A free-kick given to Marcus Bontempelli inside 50 against Carlton defender Alex Silvagni kicked off proceedings for this game, without the ball even being bounced, The Bont would miss everything as Carlton got the quick start, kicking the first three goals in the opening nine minutes of play through Charlie Curnow, Levi Casboult and Blaine Boekhorst.
It was looking like another horror game for the Dogs, but the constant turnovers by foot, kept the Bulldogs in with the chance. Lachie Hunter capitalised on a poor kick by Jacob Weitering to get the Dogs' first goal, and then Jake Stringer made hard work in what should've been a very simple goal - fumbling in the goal-square before soccering it through for the Dogs' second, putting them back to within a kick.
This play could've summed up the Bulldogs' 2017 season as they have constantly made a meal of their chances inside 50. Whether it be turnovers inside 50 or easy misses at goal (Mitch Honeychurch), the Dogs looked lost whenever they went forward which is a total shame, but the signs of life after Hunter's goal was promising.
Carlton's horrible use of the ball by foot continued early in the second quarter, as a kick-in resulted in a Toby McLean goal and handed the Bulldogs a lead they would never lose for the rest of the game, However, the Dogs were forced to compromise when Jake Stringer went off with a hamstring injury early in the second quarter, which could see him miss several weeks.
But it didn't stop the Bulldogs from pulling clear of the Blues. Mitch Honeychurch finally kicked his first goal of 2017 with a shot from 20 metres straight in front after nine-straight behinds after five weeks and a classy snap from the Bont finished the reigning premiers run of five-straight goals. A five-goal to one second quarter opened up a 21-point half-time lead for the Bulldogs.
The scrap was well and truly on in the third quarter as both sides were struggling to kick goals. Carlton continued to butcher the ball by foot - with the cameras showing coach Brendan Bolton understandably frustrated up in the box, and the Bulldogs controlling the game with little to no result. It took 18 minutes for someone to kick a goal in the third quarter, with Bontempelli making the most of a free-kick inside 50 with his second major.
And then the goals opened up. Carlton kicked two goals in four minutes, with Nick Graham kicking a gimme goal, followed by a brilliant Matthew Wright goal from the boundary, bringing Carlton back to 14 points, but the Dogs would respond with two quick goals to push the margin out to 26 points before the final break. Mitch Wallis soccered one through from a stoppage outside the goal-square whilst Toby McLean made a sloppy Carlton with the Dogs' 10th goal of the game.
Carlton continued to push the Dogs in the final quarter, but the Dogs answered to the challenge. Shortly after Charlie Curnow kicked his second goal of the afternoon, Jason Johannisen - fresh off signing a five-year deal with the club - kicked a steadier in what could be the game the Norm Smith Medallist got his groove back, but the game was still in the balance.
Matthew Wright's third got the Blues back to 22 points, and the Blues had their chances to reduce the margin even more. However it was curtains for the Blues when Levi Casboult's set shot from outside the goal-square hit the post in what was reminiscent of Casboult's woes in front of the big sticks a few years ago. The Dogs put the final nail in the coffin with Bailey Dale converting a ugly drop punt from 50 metres out.
Dale's second goal summed up the game and the afternoon really, it wasn't pretty, but they got the job done. The Western Bulldogs stay alive for another week.
Leading The Way
Jack Macrae and Marcus Bontempelli were arguably the two most important Bulldogs on the ground, with Macrae garnering a team-high 31 disposals along with eight marks, six tackles and five inside 50s, whilst The Bont had 30 disposals, six marks, six inside 50s, five clearances and two goals and along with Luke Dahlhaus (29 disposals, six inside 50s and four tackles) and Caleb Daniel (25 disposals and four inside 50s) were solid in the midfield.
Toby McLean continued his good form in the midfield with 26 disposals, five tackles and two goals in what is turning into a much-improved season from the young man from Narre Warren. Another young lad in Bailey Dale continues his impressive 2017 with a performance that saw him collect 27 disposals, five marks and two goals. I can definitely see these two being key figures in the Bulldogs' approach to the Finals this year.
The media have battered on about the fact that debutant Lewis Young is the AFL's youngest player on any list this weekend, but his performance in his first game as a Bulldog showed that he has a very bright future in defence. Young had 21 disposals, nine marks and was a very handy figure in defence, playing a hand in keeping Levi Casboult to just one goal and promising forward Jack Silvagni goal-less. It'll be interesting to see what happens with him when Easton Wood comes back into the side, but they cannot drop him after a performance that I thought was composed and showed that of a guy playing his 150th game, his big mark over the top of team mate Matt Suckling and Matthew Kreuzer was a prime example that the kid was playing with a load of confidence - something this side has lacked for weeks.
Another player that has been talked about a lot in recent weeks has been Jason Johannisen, who has been low on confidence over the past five weeks due to a heavy tag, didn't get much of a heavy tag like in the past, but still had Jed Lamb for company for most of the afternoon. Fresh off signing a five-year contract extension with the Bulldogs, Johannisen found some of that form that won him the Norm Smith Medal in last year's Grand Final, picking up 23 disposals, four rebound 50s, three inside 50s and a crucial goal in the last quarter.
There is no doubt that the future is bright at Carlton, and whilst coach Brendan Bolton was left unhappy with the Blues' sloppy ball movement at times, there's a lot of promise in this side that will get them back to playing Finals in the future. Guys like Weitering, Petrevski-Seton, Plowman, Zac Fisher, Jack Silvagni and Charlie Curnow are all extremely talented youngsters and will naturally flourish in time.
I've personally criticised both Bryce Gibbs and Matthew Kreuzer on numerous occasions, but under Brendan Bolton, both men have played some really good footy this season. Gibbs had a great game on Sunday, recording a game-high 32 disposals along with eight clearances, four rebound 50s and a goal in fantastic display, whilst Matthew Kreuzer is enjoying a career-best 2017 season in the ruck and continued on that good form, recording 50 hitouts, 12 disposals and five clearances. It can be argued that some of his hitouts came against a significantly smaller opponent in Marcus Bontempelli, but his influence in the midfield couldn't be ignored at times.
Carlton captain Marc Murphy played a fine captain's game with 27 disposals, seven marks and four tackles, whilst Sam Docherty continues his fantastic 2017 season with 29 disposals, nine marks, four rebound 50s and four tackles playing as both a midfielder and in his usual post at half-back. Two of Matthew Wright's three goals came at crucial moments for the Blues and was Carlton's most dangerous forward, whilst Same Kerridge (30 disposals and five marks) and Kade Simpson (23 disposals, seven marks and seven rebound 50s) also battled on for four quarters.
Has this win resurrected a season that could've resembled a sinking ship? Whilst that remains to be seen, the Bulldogs have a good chance to go back-to-back as they travel to Cairns to play the Gold Coast Suns.
The Dogs have played the Suns up in Cairns in three games in past three years and each game has resulted in a win to the Bulldogs. The trend will have to continue next week if the Dogs are to keep their finals hopes alive, with big games against finals contenders Essendon and top four aspirants Greater Western Sydney and Port Adelaide still to come before the end of the season.